pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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He Died for Us

Reading: Romans 5: 6-8

Verse Six: You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.

To me, today’s three verses speak to the depth of God’s love for all of humanity.  The key words are ‘love’ and ‘all’.  It is an amazing, mighty, almost unfathomable love that would send His Son, knowing He would die a painful death.  And speaking of unfathomable – Jesus died for sinners, for you and me, plus all those who hate God and those who deny God and those who refuse to acknowledge God’s existence…  To die for the sinners we all are is one thing.  To die for the haters, the atheists, the non-believers… is a whole other level of ‘all’.

Verse six reads, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly”.  In His infinite wisdom, God initiated His plan to save us at ‘just the right time’.  God’s hand is often at work in the world.  Sometimes it happens in big ways, like this, and at other times God’s hand is at work in smaller ways, like the time that person said that thing to you at that time in your life.  There is another truth in this verse.  We are powerless.  Before the cross humanity was trapped in our sin and held captive by death.  But through the cross we find forgiveness and hope.  As Christ conquered sin and death, He opened the way for us too.  Through a personal relationship with Jesus we can claim salvation and eternal life.

In the next two verses, Paul returns to the idea of just who Christ died for.  He notes that maybe some would die for a good man.  I think some are even willing to die for a good cause.  But no one would be willing to die for an enemy or for a cause they do not believe in.  Jesus died for both.  “While we were sinners” – separated from God – He died for us.  That’s amazing, but it goes farther.  Jesus knew we would continue to sin.  He knew His death would not end sinning.  But He died anyway.  We, by our imperfect nature, are prone to sin.  And Jesus died for each and every one of us anyway.  Thanks be to God.


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Good News

Acts 2: 14a and 36-41

Verse 41: About 3,000 were added to their number that day.

Peter opens this section of scripture with these words: “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Savior”.  Peter speaks with authority and power that comes from two things: he has personally seen the risen Christ and the Holy Spirit now dwells within him.  Those gathered around him must have perked up and paid attention.  They all knew the facts of Jesus’ life and His crucifixion.  They also must sense both the unquestionable truth of Peter’s words and the guilt they feel over what has happened to Jesus.  They are ‘cut to the heart’ and ask Peter and friends, “Brothers, what shall we do”?  Although the Holy Spirit has not yet come to dwell in them, they are certainly feeling the conviction of the Spirit.

Peter responds with an altar call.  He says step up, admit and repent of your sins, and be baptized into the name of Jesus Christ.  Again the people respond to the nudge of God.  We too live with this nudge guiding us.  At times the Holy Spirit leads, at times it whispers, at times it convicts, and at times it nudges.  In all of these ways, the Holy Spirit propmts us to action.  When we are faithful, like the 3,000 in today’s passage, then God responds.  God gives the people the forgiveness of sins and the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.  This is the essence of the good news.

The same good news exists today.  God still pursues mankind with a love that is unquenchable and undeniable.  It is a love that is offered to one and all.  It is offered equally to sinners and to saints.  No matter where we are on the sinner-saint continuum, may we each realize and accept the good news this day: God loves us, Jesus saves us.  All we have to do is profess Jesus as Lord and we receive the gift of eternal life and the daily presence of the Spirit.  Thanks be to God for this wonderful and incredible gift.


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Resurrection Faith

Reading: Acts 2: 29-32

Verse 32: God has raised Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact.

God had promised David that one from his line would rule forever.  In the world where kings come and go, where power struggles are a real threat, this promise required a great deal of faith to believe.  Even in David’s reign, there were several who tried to sieze power from him.  So to hold onto this promise too a great deal of faith.  David had such a faith.  He held onto his absolute trust in God.  Forever is a long time, but there was an unshakable trust that David had in God.

For Peter, his faith had been shaken.  He has just been restored from the denial of knowing Christ.  He has been anointed the “Rock” upon which the church will be built.  But Peter has had those days when doubt and fear has crept in, just as David had and just as we do.  No human being is immune to doubt and fear and anxiety and worry.  For Peter, in those days after Jesus died, there must have been huge doubts.  But the resurrection came and his doubts about Christ were washed away.  But after the resurrection, there must have been great fear… – he had denied the Lord three times.  And Jesus restores him from this too.  Peter was beginning to see through new eyes.  He was beginning to see with eyes full of hope and faith.  He realized that God had been at work all along.  This too is the faith that David lived within.  It is the faith we are called to live in too.

Just as David had seen the eternity of the Messiah, Peter now understood God’s will for all of creation: forgiveness of sin and life eternal.  These are God’s gifts​.  Through the cross, Jesus defeated the power of sin.  Through the grave, Jesus defeated the power of death.  God’s will is to offer these gifts to all who call on Christ as Lord and Savior.  Once we do this and place our hope and trust in Him, we too will understand what Peter knew.  Christ came to save the world and will come again to restore all of creation.  It is God’s gift to you and to me, to all of creation.  May we, like David and Peter, claim this gift, this inheritance, and begin to live out our resurrection faith each day.  Verse 32 reads, “God has raised Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact”.  May we live as witnesses today!


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Psalm Prayer

Reading: Psalm 130

Verse 5: I wait for the Lord, my souls waits, and in his word I put my hope.

Today’s Psalm is a great prayer.  It is a wonderful prayer because it lays out the mercy and love God has for us.  Within this we find forgiveness and hope – two of the greatest gifts that God gives to us. Upon these elements we build our relationship with God.

In the opening verses, the psalmist cries out from the depths.  He pleads for God to hear and be attentive to his prayers.  What depths do you need God to pull you up out of?  Go to God in prayer.

Verses three and four turn to the depths of God’s forgiveness.  The psalmist realizes where we would all stand if God kept track of our sins.  If we could only earn forgiveness or could only be acceptable to God based on our own efforts, we would utterly fail.  Lift up to God your thanks for His great mercy.

The next verse, verse five, is almost a response to the opening verses: “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope”.  We too wait with hope, a hope built upon the truths we find in scripture.  What truths found in the Word of God do you cling to?  His promise never to forsake you?  His promise to give us what we need for the moment at hand?  His promise to dwell in us?  Another promise?  As we wait, we wait in the truths and promises of God.  Lift up your thanks for the truths that anchor your soul.

The closing two verses draw back to verses three and four.  We are reminded again of God’s unfailing love and full redemption.  It is a love that always forgives and always welcomes us back into a right relationship with God.  It is a redemption fully paid for by Jesus Christ’s blood on the cross.  Like the psalmist, the love and forgiveness are our hope as well.  Spend a few moments in praise and adoration for God’s great love and forgiveness.  May it be well with your soul.


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Hope

Reading: Romans 5: 1-11

This short section of Romans is a great summary of our faith.  It begins with grace, which is always with us.  When we enter into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, we experience a grace that justifies, or makes us right with God.  Through this same relationship, we receive an undeserved and unmerited forgiveness that God pours out upon us.  Paul acknowledges that we do suffer at times, but he also rejoices because in doing so we are made more like Christ, who also suffered for the faith.  When we have suffering or trials, though, it works in us to build perseverance which builds our character, shaping how we see and ‘deal’ with future trials.  It is through this process that we also build hope.  It is a hope based upon our relationship with Jesus, one that grows as we live a life that rests in His love and care.

Verse eight reminds us of God’s unlimited love for us: “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us”.  Jesus did not wait for us to be good or fixed or perfect.  He died for a bunch of sinners.  It is through the blood of the cross that our sins are washed away.  It is through Jesus’ gift on the cross that we are reconciled to God, made new again, and able to claim the gift of eternal life.

The hope we hold onto is based upon God’s love and promises.  Through God’s love and grace we are justified and forgiven, finding a peace within our souls.  We release the guilt and shame of our sins and live as freed children of God.  As a child of God, saved through our relationship with the Son, we hold the promise of eternal life.  We know that nothing in this world can separate us from this promise.  It gives us great hope in this life and in the life to come.  It allows us to walk through the trials and sufferings, trusting that God is in control and that He is with us through it all.  Knowing this allows us to persevere and to know that, in the end, all will be good because we are in God’s love and care.

All of this is good news!  To all who are lost or broken or hurting, this is great news.  May we share this hope with one in need today.


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Universal Love

Reading: Romans 4: 1-5 & 13-17

Paul’s writing today is all about inclusion.  At the time of this writing, Paul was trying to show how universal God’s love is.  Some were hung up on being circumcised and living under the Law as the requirements to be in God’s family.  Paul states that it by faith alone that we receive the promise.  It is through the promise that we are saved.  His argument is based upon salvation by grace alone.  Paul developed this line of thinking from the realization that no one can follow the Law enough or do enough good works to earn or deserve salvation.  Paul knew that it was only by God’s grace that anyone can be saved.  Paul personally experienced this in his own redemption story and it was his life’s work to bring in any and all into God’s family.

This is also our call as individuals and as churches.  There are many people who feel as if they are outside of God’s love.  Some feel they have done too much wrong or have too great a sin, some feel they are too broken, some feel they could never be good enough…  The list is long, the barriers are many.  To all of these people, Paul’s message is that no one is too anything to step into the love of God. All are loved by God.  This is our message to carry forth as well.  The doors of our hearts and the doors of all of our churches need to reflect this idea of universal inclusion.  This means we see all as God sees them, as a child of God.  Yes, they may be less than perfect.  We all are.  News flash.  And yet God offers us all love and grace and forgiveness.  Who are we to draw lines and put up barriers?

May we all have the courage to live out our faith.  May we all be willing to see lost people simply as they are: just another broken child of God who needs to meet their Father.  May each person that crosses our path or walks through the doors of our places of worship encounter the pure and universal love of God in us, opening the way for them to experience God’s love and grace and forgiveness.  God is for all people.  May we help it to be so today.


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Lent and Ashes

Reading: Psalm 51: 1-17

Lent begins today on Ash Wednesday.  We mirror Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness with a season in which we too prepare ourselves and look forward to Easter, when we celebrate our risen Lord.  On this Lenten journey we pray, study, meditate, fast, and repent as means of preparation.  We begin this journey with ashes.  As we repent and work to mirror Jesus, we must work to prune away all that is impure and force certain parts of ourselves to die.  The mark of the cross on our foreheads reminds us that we belong to Jesus.  The one we seek to follow and emulate walks with us.  As we undertake this Lenten journey, we know that we do not walk alone.

Psalm 51, the Ash Wednesday choice forever, opens with, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love”.  Verse three reminds us, “My sin is always before me”.  We live each and every day with this reality.  We are always in a battle with temptation and sin; Satan remains vigilant, always seeking to derail us, to draw us away from God.  We seek and desperately need God’s mercy because we fail.  We are assured of God’s unfailing love.  This is a beautiful thing.  In verse ten we read, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me”.  These words will be said often tonight.  This is our goal in this life – to live with a pure heart.  Creating a pure heart is the focus of our Lenten journey.  May we use verse ten often as a prayer to God in this holy season of Lent.

Lent is certainly a time to look inward and to prepare for the risen Christ.  But we must also look outward.  We do not live in a vacuum.  We live as a part of humanity.  As such, we are all connected together.  Verse thirteen reads, “then I will teach transgressors your ways and sinners will turn back to you”.  We are called as Christians to shine the light of Jesus out into the world.  Many are broken and hurting.  Each needs to experience God’s unlimited mercy, unfailing love, and endless forgiveness.  As we journey through Lent, preparing ourselves, may we also help others on their journey, bringing friends and strangers alike to the cross so that they too can know our risen Savior.